Realms Beyond PBEM4: The Influence of Sea Power Upon History

The Battle of the North Sea had concluded with a narrow tactical victory for TheArchduke's English navy. With oledavy and Singaboy's ships sitting at the bottom of the ocean, the English/Brazilian side of the world war would have the initiative for the upcoming turns. Both of them were committing forces to Germany in the hopes of knocking Singaboy out of the game, after which oledavy would become the main target. TheArchduke needed to pause for a turn to heal his damaged ships in his home waters, which meant that Woden was the first to land forces in Germany:

Singaboy responded to this advance by shooting at the English frigate with the city defenses of Kiel, and then bringing a crossbow over with the +1 movement bonus that he still had from his original Great General. That crossbow was enough to sink the frigate, which lacked any strength boost from a Great Admiral. The city of Kiel was one turn away from finishing another frigate, and Singaboy was stalling for time until it could be completed. He was also hoping that oledavy would move over some of his new submarines to help out, although submarines have a very slow movement rate of only three tiles per turn and it would take a little longer for them to arrive in this theatre of war.

On the following turn, TheArchduke crossed through the narrow channel and attacked the city of Zuckerstadt while Woden landed more Brazilian units. Singaboy vented his frustrations in his spoiler thread:

Singaboy: I am pretty certain now that oledavy doesn't really bother about Germany's survival. I am merely meant for him to drag the other too into some conflict while he does some half assed stuff elsewhere. His campaign in Spain doesn't go anywhere, as he has a few swords to try take Inland cities? Gotta be kidding. Then, what on earth is his fleet doing at Norway and Toronto? Watching paint dry? Meanwhile Archduke and Woden mean business and attack my cities wholesome. Zuckerstadt will be gone next turn. Salz am Meer might be up a turn or two later against Archduke's completely overpowered Great Admiral navy with a strength 85 ironclad. I give it to Archduke this game, he played its awesomely well and got me trounced and he did/does the same with oledavy despite my warnings about England's overpowered navy.

As if it wasn't sufficiently overpowered with:
- cheap harbors
- stacked easy naval conquest
- free units on other continents upon city capture
- capture of ships with sea dogs

It's made worse as Great Admirals are easily gained due to cheap harbors. To me this civ is an insta ban on Island maps. I hope lurkers can now better understand why I did not stand a chance against England the first time round. Look at what oledavy's navy went through and his was much better than mine. I hope Woden won't gloat on the conquest he is going to achieve on the back of Archduke's power. Kiel still holds as there is no overpowered England. Woden killed my sacrificial knight there as expected. However, I have units to counter that and defeat his knight. I also still have the production capacity to soak up a few unit losses. Woden has the problem of a very narrow landing strip unless he doesn't mind his units to get under bombardment from my city/frigate and crossbows.

I start to shift units around to get them out of range in the west and within range at Kiel. Weinberg finished another crossbow and continues a knight done in 1 turn. Salz am Meer finishes a frigate next turn and depending on oledavy's and Archduke's navy I might pull the frigate to safety behind the submarines. I also reassign tiles so that a potential loss of Salz am Meer doesn't lose me the horses. I am counting units exchanges with Woden. So far, it's:

Woden: 2 frigates, 1 caravel, 1 knight
Singaboy: 1 caravel (thanks to Mohenjo), 1 knight

Singaboy's frustration was understandable, since England does indeed have all sorts of advantages on water-heavy maps. He was defending against Woden rather well though, and the Brazilian attack force hadn't made any significant progress as yet against Kiel. Help was on the way in the form of four Japanese subs, the first batch of oledavy's ugpraded privateers:

Those four subs were precious though and could not easily be replaced by Japan. Unfortunately for Germany, TheArchduke was doing much better than Woden and was able to take Zuckerstadt on the following turn, even managing to catch and sink the first Japanese sub arriving in the process:

TheArchduke: Oledavy has subs. I manage to conquer Zuckerstadt and kill a sub, I fear a loss of 1 or even 2 ships is possible, who knows how many subs are hiding. Where the heck is he getting all those ships? That's right the VA... The amnety situation is getting bad. I actually build an arena and restart that settler from 100 turns ago to get incense in the north of my island. At least I hope Oledavy is hurting as well.

By the way, submarines are invisible to other players unless there's a ship right next to them. Woden was able to tip off TheArchduke as to the location of these subs due to the ongoing alliance between himself and oledavy, which was due to expire in another half dozen turns. In the screenshot above from TheArchduke's point of view, the other three Japanese subs don't appear even though everyone knew that they were present. Oledavy responded by sinking another English ironclad and frigate on his turn, and TheArchduke was spooked enough that he decided to retreat his remaining ships north through the narrows, back towards his home continent. For all that England had won the Battle of the North Sea, TheArchduke's fleet had also suffered serious losses and needed to back away for the moment to replenish its ranks. This was a major tactical victory for oledavy and Singaboy, who immediately moved to take advantage of this opportunity. Without the cover of bombardment from English ships, Singaboy was able to strike back at Woden's invasion force:

Singaboy: This game is a rollercoaster (even if I know I have long lost it). One turn, you think we have the edge over Woden and Archduke, the next it looks all bleak and so on. oledavy's message made me doubt my positive feeling about round 153. Anyway, this is what I face at the beginning of the round: The disaster that oledavy whined about, did not happen. His subs and my frigate are all unharmed. Archduke must have retreated his forces past the narrows. Whether he is going to sail around to attack Kiel, nobody knows. Woden has attacked Kiel with 4 frigates but the city is at defensive strength of 71. Surprisingly, he didn't achieve as much damage as I had feared. The city has an offensive strength of 61, which is quite nice too.

I start to attack Woden first and decide not to waste time with anything but his frigates. They have to go as soon as possible. First I attack the closest ship with my promoted crossbow. It has a district bonus +10 (sitting on the commercial hub) and +5 from the Great General. Hence, the first shot is 60 vs 45 and causes more than 50% damage. The frigate is enough to sink it to the bottom of the Ocean It is important that I could use the frigate for the second shot as this gives me the chance to attack the next frigate with the city walls. The city causes 59 damage, that's awesome (anyway expected average is 57). I pull in another crossbow and with the Great General bonus, it sinks the frigate. It's crucial to sink them fast so that they can't promote. It will drive Woden's war wariness up as well. He lost 4 frigates against me by now. Must be a blow for sure. If he leaves his frigates in range to attack my crossbow for example, he is risking a total loss of the navy here. Not sure whether he is willing to sacrifice his navy for marginal gains against me.

Let's turn the attention west. I would love to take back Zuckerstadt while the ironclad is still inside. However, Archduke has two muskets and a crossbow (presumably in the fog north of Zuckerstadt) I take the risk and attack the western musket with a frigate then the knight and the second frigate taking it out. I pulled in a horseman to add +2 flanking bonus while attacking. The Great General also moved west to provide +5 strength during the attack. Of course, I am risking counterattacks here, but if Archduke pulled his units to far toward me I can pick on them as well. Now, have a look at the picture below. The way the city and units are placed, Woden should not be able to use his knight as he is first before Archduke in the turn order and Archduke's musket blocks the knight from attacking me.

The overall situation at the end of the turn:

I will certainly lose units in the west, Woden might pick on my crossbow in the east but I have quite a handful of units coming closer. There is quite a bit of firepower. If only I can reach ballistics to upgrade some crossbows, both of them have to be really careful. My military engineer will build the first fort next turn. I always find this Eureka particular useless. I am curious what oledavy will do. Hopefully he is willing to support my effort to retake Zuckerstadt. His attack 80 subs are quite something if used properly. The only issue is the limited movement of 3 tiles.

Singaboy made huge strides on this turn, particularly against Woden. Kiel and Salz am Meer both looked to be secure for the immediate future, and it might even be possible for Germany to recapture Zuckerstadt if oledavy's subs were able to retain control of the seas off the western German coast. Woden assessed the situation and cried uncle, turning and retreating his forces back towards the Brazilian homeland without engaging further:

Woden: I am about 99% sure oledvay will come for my coastal cities, or at least that is what I would do. Take out my ability to make MGs [Minas Geraeses] and pretty much take me out of the game. I am also 99% sure I won't get the Euerka for Nationalism and will have to suffer from attacks for 3 or 4 turns. The invasion of Germany is not looking so well when I open the save and find that TWO frigates were sunk. I was expecting to lose 1 but not 2. I am starting to think it is time to pull back and maybe even send most of the units back home to defend against Japan.

* * * * *

Attacking Germany is a bust! Have Frigates only able to scratch the walls of 71 strength city and no good place to land was enough to prevent me from doing anything. May have to come back with better units in 20 turns. I start moving my units back to Brazil...

It was hard to avoid contrasting the commitment level of the two alliances in this theatre of war. Oledavy had invested heavily with his navy to preserve Singaboy from being conquered, which was of course in his own self-interest but had nonetheless resulted in a substantial loss of units. Singaboy had little choice other than to work with oledavy to avoid his defeat. On the other side, TheArchduke and Woden had not been able to coordinate their attacks together effectively, and Woden usually seemed to be charting his own course rather than working together with TheArchduke. Part of this was due to the game situations of the two alliances. Both TheArchduke and Woden were still trying to achieve victory, whereas Singaboy's only goal was survival. However, it was unquestionable that TheArchduke was getting a lot less out of his alliance with Woden than oledavy was getting from his similar partnership with Singaboy.

Elsewhere on the map, oledavy captured another city in Spain, leaving Jester with only one remaining, and took another English city in the ex-Norwegian territories. Although those secondary campaigns weren't flashy, they continued to build Japanese strength with more and more territory. Oledavy had now caught TheArchduke on the scoreboard and the two of them were in close competition for the top position. Furthermore, there was a small detachment of subs harassing the eastern coast of England:

oledavy: Sadly, my nearest ironclad can't reach the city until t159. But, the subs blew me away by taking down half of the city's strength in one turn with one attack. While I'm waiting on ironclads to arrive and deciding what to do about Woden, I'm going to continue hitting cities and stacking up XP, alongside hunting navy, killing trade routes and coastally raiding. With any luck, this move is going to have an enormous psychological impact on Archduke and prompt him to rethink the possibility of peace.

Singaboy killing two of Woden's frigates was also huge. Each one he kills is a frigate that can't be upgraded into a MG. Woden currently has 7 frigates, 3 around Germany, and 4 on the way - presumably trying to get away from my subs. It's possible Woden wants to take Kiel and upgrade his ships there, far away from me. Still don't know when he finishes Nationalism - much will come down to if he can get the Causus Belli off CFCJesterfool. And if he doesn't capture Kiel, which seems increasingly likely, then I don't know what he does. On the Inspiration front, best case, it doesn't help him and just adds 5 war weariness to his stockpile.

No though, this turn he withdrew north around Zitronheim. The situation on the ground in Germany is looking really good.

It looked like the tide had finally swung in the seas around Germany. However, oledavy was caught off guard the following turn by the extreme movement rate of TheArchduke's naval units. Making use of ironclads with nine (!) movement points, TheArchduke attacked the submarine that oledavy had blocking the narrow-one tile sea passage. TheArchduke rolled well on the combat result and sunk the Japanese ship, which popped the cork in the bottle and allowed more English ships to slip through to the other side. They pounced on the Japanese subs in the open waters there, and the slower subs now had no place to run away to safety:

oledavy: God, this was the worst possible turn for this. Things could have been so easy to manage if Archduke hadn't rolled liked a god. With the double promoted ironclad down, I could have swapped in the Eastern sub, moved the red-lined one behind, nuked the fleet and red-lined the other frigate. Now, just when it looked like things might be sewn up for us over here, things are thrown into doubt again. I shudder to think of the next turn, and the chance of the privateer converting one of my subs. At the very least, I'm probably going to lose one. Anyway, sank an ironclad and prepared for the worst.

I can't escape the inexorable feeling that this game has slipped away from me. It makes opening every turn a little depressing. Another precious sub down, and the last one to follow in a moment. I'm not happy with how this engagement panned out, especially considering a single altered dice roll and we would have won. If he had been forced to attack with only two ships per turn...... He failed to capture my sub last turn. If that was his only Sea Dog I sank, I would have more hope. Alas, moving revealed another.

That is not the major issue though. At this point, I'm willing to leave Germany to its fate. I've lost 20 ships, including 4 irreplaceable subs defending it, and while I have succeeded in prolonging the conflict, I wonder if some of that navy, and especially the subs, would have been better kept in reserve to fight Brazil.

I would include some screenshots from TheArchduke here, but for whatever reason he wasn't updating his spoiler thread during this period. In any case, the strategic initative had now shifted yet again in the waters to the west of Germany. All of oledavy's subs were sunk by TheArchduke and even though England had taken serious losses in the process, this was nowhere close to an even trade. TheArchduke was easily able to sink the remaining German ships and now gained complete control over the western coast of Germany. Singaboy's land units, which had been advancing north in the hopes of retaking Zuckerstadt, were now left with no cover and blasted from the sea by TheArchduke's frigates. The German knights and crossbows were no match for the English naval units and began taking severe losses. Singaboy pulled back to Salz am Meer and Kiel to lick his wounds, with all of the initative in this theatre having gone back over to TheArchduke once again.

With the alliance between oledavy and Woden about to expire, oledavy was increasingly worried about defending against a Brazilian attack powered by Minas Geraeses. He was effectively forced to write off support for Singaboy for the time being:

oledavy: I'm just so annoyed that my next gen subs are being overpowered by stupid GA's [Great Admirals]. The fact that there is little counterplay and they stack annoys me immensely. And before someone walks in here with the "You should have built more harbors" line, again, appreciate, England gets CHEAP harbors and gets double GA points for each. Barring an immense investment, little was ever going to stop England from getting at least the first 2 GA's, and likely the first 3. The fact that two civs in this game were non-factors from basically the start meant that there was that much less competition for Archduke to deal with. Moreover, I shouldn't HAVE To beat England at the thing they're good at to be competitive. Saying I simply should have contested him heavily for GA's is akin to saying a the best way for a Civ4 FIN civ to beat a SPI civ is to swap civics more often. They should be strong yes, and he should be rewarded for pursuing them, but this is just absurdity. Anyway, here's the plan:

1. Withdraw support for Singaboy, hope Archduke gets embroiled in an endless slog trying to bring him down. I just can't spare any more forces to help him with Woden about to finish Nationalism.
2. Survive Woden, and hopefully remove him from contention.
3. Make it to Steel and upgrade a fleet of battleships.
5. Profit

In all seriousness, if I can make it to t180, make it to Steel, and have about 20-30 frigates to upgrade into battleships + a Great Admiral, I think I can just win this thing. But, a lot can happen between now and then.

There was a lot of weird diplomacy in the following turns, where TheArchduke tried to get a peace treaty with Singaboy. This was correctly refused by Singaboy, who understood that TheArchduke would simply use that time to destroy oledavy's navy along with Woden and then come back to finish off what was left of Germany. Oledavy was also floating some bizarre ideas, like gifting his Venetian Arsenal city to TheArchduke in a peace treaty so that he could concentrate solely on Woden. There was a lot of ink spilled over these plans, but none of them came to fruition. Oledavy even staged a pretend rage quit in the PBEM4 forum, which I can fortunately ignore here since he eventually posted his notes in a big dump a week later. It was a shame that the public diplomacy thread had resulted in so much bitterness amongst the players for this game. Fortunately we did get a legitimate ending to this match; this had been a great game and it would have been a real waste to see the ending ruined by some kind of ridiculous peace treaty.

Woden was closing in on Nationalism and the arrival of his Minas Geraeses:

Four more turns to Nationalism and the ships unlocking. Woden's alliance with oledavy was also about to run out on Turn 160. Neither would have visibility on the other, and each would finally be free to target one another's ships and cities. Note as well in the above screenshot that oledavy was about to take and raze the English city of "I Want To Break Free". That was the former Stockholm city state, and losing it was a major blow for TheArchduke. Aside from being a strong core city, the razed location had also provided visibility of the eastern approaches to the English continent and an excellent offshore naval base for the SEnglish units to heal up. Its loss meant that the waters to the north of Brazil were much more open to raids from Japanese ships.

Oledavy was also concluding his campaign against Spain:

oledavy: The big turn was here at last. Time to finish a plan I've had since very early this game.... Apparently a city counts as a unit for the Military Science Eureka. This kill [of Jester] immediately shot my science up by about 18 and my culture by about 20. Getting to work that Natural Wonder near Nereid without the penalty is huge. Research times on both my tech and civic dropped by a turn. Now I can fan out the military to make better use of retainers. The war weariness still hasn't come off though.

It's worth noting I didn't lose a single unit taking Spain. Or earlier fighting them around Jerusalem. Or razing Pizarro. Zip, zilch, nada. With I could say the same for fighting Archduke....

I'm still a bit surprised that no one else tried to interfere with oledavy's conquest of Spain. The fighting extended for such a long period of time, and none of the other players ever attempted to stop the slow grinding down of one Spanish city after another. TheArchduke had his hands full with Singaboy throughout this period, but Woden might have been able to do something. Instead, a small amout of Japanese forces took one city after another until they were all in oledavy's hands. With the removal of the occupation penalty from the Spanish conquests and a significant drop in war weariness, oledavy's empire was larger and more powerful than ever. This stuff wasn't enough to guarantee victory, however; if TheArchduke finished off the conquest of Singaboy, there would be a 2 vs 1 situation with England and Brazil doubleteaming Japan, and that was enough to keep the game in doubt for the time being.

There was a narrow window of a few turns after oledavy and Woden's alliance had ended, but before Woden finished researching Nationalism and opened up his Minas Geraeses. Oledavy used this short period to attack and raze one of the home cities on the Brazilian continent:

oledavy: I continued my attack on Magueria this turn. I also nailed a Portuguese caravel and crossbow that were wandering around, anything to get experience. The plan here is to raze the city, killing the invaluable frigate I've boxed inside it. It should take me 1-2 more turns to burn through the city. The big attack comes next turn. Additionally, I might try to raze Lisbon, hurting both Woden and Archduke (who have 6 envoys in it). After that, it will be time to hightail it back east. Salguerio is such a good city, and unfortunately is just going to take too long to grind down. Woden did a good job here defending against more advanced units. Hell, if he upgrades next turn, I could have some major problems in the south still. I'm also considering bombing Tijuca from the sea and sending in a land unit to kill it. I bought a knight to potentially effect this.

* * * * *
Alright Woden, time to face the music. I burned the city and turned my attention to Tijuca and Lisbon. Woden suzerained the city this turn, just in time for me to wipe it off the map Still no MG's, but it can't be long now. I must be wary. The fleet has begun its withdraw to the home waters. 4 more ironclads will be added to the fleet next turn to help me weather the storm.

The loss of Mangueira was a major blow for Woden as it denied him a canal city to move ships through the middle of the Brazilian continent. This would make it much more difficult for him to marshall his forces for a defense agaist oledavy's larger fleet. Woden also had fewer shipbuilding cities than his rivals; he had deliberately placed some cities off the coast to make them safer from foreign attack. While that did make them harder to capture, it also left Woden with fewer places to build his own ships, and he consistently had a smaller navy than the other players. For this water-heavy map, every city needed to be either coastal or have a Harbor district to train ships. Land units played only a modest role in this game's combat; like the old Alfred Thayer Mahan dictum, it was all about who could marshal the most sea power and bring it to bear decisively.

TheArchduke's ships were still over by Germany and did not take part in this new theatre of conflict between Japan and Brazil. TheArchduke was making progress there, pusing forward to take the city of Salz am Meer from Singaboy:

TheArchduke: Some rather rough, desperate turns. The loss of I want to break free, hurts, a lot. It was one of my science cities. Nothing to do but soldier on. Oledavy's final play of ceding the VA to me to probably "rouse" Woden to attack the 2nd place instead of Oledavy who has been running away with the game and has not won because he wanted to conquer too much at the same time and came despite that too close to break my back in the battle of the North Sea, has failed.

Apart from that I move most of my fleet and GAs towards my capital to unite my fleet to help Woden. 1 Submarine and 1 Frigate Fleet will stay back and harass Singaboy's shores. Apart from that my morale has risen a bit as Oledavy is finally against the Wall with me Woden. The odds to win this? Slim. Woden has no concept of warfare and aggression, his "invasion" of Singaboy was laughably suboptimal. Despite everything I think I have shown that I am a player not to be trifled with after PBEM #1 and PBEM #2 I kinda needed that.

The main strategic objective now for TheArchduke was to link up his fleet with the Brazilian one, taking advantage of the Minas Gereases that were just about to appear on the battlefield. Or at least that was what those of us watching the game expected to see. It looked more and more as though TheArchduke's military was sticking around in this area. The English units in Germany were still pressing onwards, with Salz am Meer falling and the offshore German city of Trier soon to share the same fate. Singaboy continued to put up a good fight against the superior English invaders, however, despite being overwhelmingly outnumbered. He even managed to take out one of TheArchduke's rare and extremely expensive submarines:

Singaboy: I didn;t even realise that I had stopped to report. Besides the ridiculous flurry of diplomacy nonsense, I lost Salz am Meer as expected. Archduke sent mixed singals, wanting peace, then not wanting it, changing his mind every turn. To me, all three have shown incredible lack of trustworthiness for future games. All the promises, the alliances are just self serving nonsense. I even sent a peace deal to Archduke thinking oledavy would offer peace to Archduke so that I could irritate Woden a little. Anyway, let them be at war with me until Teutoburg is taken. I will celebrate the mini victories etc. And this turn I got one.

Without his sugar daddies (the GA), Archduke's navy is just an ordinary thing. His submarine took out a crossbow, but I strike back with Kiel's city defense, the frigate inside the city, Aachen's camp and crossbow insides. This is enough to get the final crossbow to sink the sub. Now, none of them has gone for a peace deal, hence their war weariness must be staggering high. Woden is being relentlessly attacked by oledavy, Archduke lost a city in the north. Heck, let them hit each other and raze cities while I watch from the sidelines.

In the meantime, I am building a spy in Aachen. I read stories of entire economies wiped out my spy steals. Let's see what the spy can do to Archduke. The game is lost anyway, might as well try some new stuff here. Woden is getting what he deserves and Archduke and his silly conquest of Germany is not helping them one bit. Now Archduke is going after my mini city in the west, as if that makes a difference. He is busy with his frigate fleet there while oledavy smashes Woden. This is really poor play if you ask me. I am not quite certain why Archduke didn't agree on my peace proposal. Salz am Meer and Zuckerstadt in occupation gain him hardly anything but he suffers war weariness thanks to the war with me.

oledavy has razed yet another city and Woden's score is slipping, almost reaching my lows. Lisbon is going down next and with it, 9 envoys from Woden and 8 from Archduke. Sweet.

This was the kind of resistance that Singaboy might have been able to put up earlier in the game when the initial English invasion of his home continent took place. To be clear, Singaboy was losing the war here against TheArchduke. His cities were falling and TheArchduke was preparing to bring over some land units, muskets and bombards, to complement the English sea power and begin taking down the remaining German cities. But Singaboy was making TheArchduke work for every inch of territory taken, picking his moments to go on the offensive and eliminate English units that had been left out of position. It was impressive tactical play as he continued his doomed defense of the German homeland.

On Turn 163, Woden showed up with the first Minas Geraes battleships. Oledavy surveyed the situation and decided to make a strategic withdrawal:

oledavy: The MG reckoning is upon us.... Remarkably, he wasn't able to kill my frigate near Tijuca. I had a very hard decision to make. Kill Lisbon, hurting both the English and Brazilian economies, but possibly leaving several of my ships open to counter-attack from MG's in the fog. By the way, the fact that MG's have an effective strike range of 8 (as opposed to 6 for my ironclads, 6 for my frigates, and 5 for my subs), is really awful and means that barring a flub from Woden - our fleets blundering into each other - he will almost certainly get the first strike. Archduke will too thanks to his movement buffs. Anyway, I decided to play it safe and withdraw. Almost my entire fleet is in the above frame, 15 frigates, 12 ironclads, 4 subs.

I'm pretty happy with how the pre-emptive strike on Woden went. I managed to burn down his second best coastal city, pillage four trade routes, sink 2 frigates (a major win right there), kill a musket, and do some assorted pillaging. All at the cost of zilch. I also think I can get out of here without losing any ships, and if Woden gives chase, I will have the opportunity to defeat some of his fleet in detail. So, time is on my side. 17 turns to Steel. The challenge actually will be having sufficient gold to upgrade battleships (really regretting that knight purchase about now...). However, the plan is the same: shove out as many frigates as I can in the interim. Having a backlog to upgrade as I get more gold won't be an issue. So, time is on my side, with my science/turn and culture/turn, eventually, slowly, I'm going to just be able to run Archduke and Woden over. They have to kill me now or they lose.

Here's the minimum fleet I expect coming my way:

7 MG's (The number he gave is consistent with the number I expected).
1 Caravel

3 Ironclads
1 Sub
3 Great Admirals

Obviously I expect a little more than this. This is a very scary fleet. Especially Archduke's sub, which will hit like a truck for 85 strength. The biggest problem I face is that I will almost certainly be first-struck, which means my navy not only has to be bigger due to the 2v1 and qualitative differences, but I also need to be able to weather the first hit and hit back just as hard. This is where DoTF is going to come into play. My little used Defender of the Faith belief (and probably forgotten about by Archduke and Woden) just might save me the game.

Lysithea is where the fight will happen. With a large number of coastal tiles where I will benefit from DoTF and lots of coast, this is the perfect place to make a stand - astraddle the main route to Europa. I predict Woden will link up with Archduke and come through the channel to the west to get here. He may alternatively try a southern approach towards Jerusalem/Charon, but I will be similarly well-positioned to defend should he do that.

Priority Number #1: The fleet must survive. At this point in the game, armies, districts, even cities, are largely immaterial. They're only relevant insofar as they help me produce more and better ships in a decent timeline. The Japanese empire is now this fleet. I can lose every city, but if the fleet is intact, I can still win. I will go into battle with three units:

Frigate Fleets (+1 Solo Frigate Leftover)

Due to the amazing power of Divine Wind and DoTF, ironclads sitting around Lysithea will be at 75 strength, equal to Archduke's ironclads and only 5 strength below the ranged striking power of Woden's MGs. I will shove a bunch of unpromoted ironclads around the city to protect it and absorb the first strike. Second, all frigates will combine into fleets, both to save on costs and because they're pretty worthless otherwise. This also makes the most of the promotions I've been able to cram on half of my fleet. Along with the Embolon Ironclads, they will be held in reserve for the counter-attack after Archduke and Woden launch their first strike. Third, my subs. I will use them as my primary hitters. They are the best thing I have facing Woden right now. I will hide them in corners, nooks, and counter-attack once the alliance has committed to the attack. So, that's the marching order.

A frigate fleet attacking from my territory into a coastal tile with a promotion hits for 87 strength, as hard as a MG fleet. A sub doing the same hits for 90 strength. An embolon Ironclad attacking out similarly hits for 82 strength. I don't think any of Woden's ships have promotions, so I have an edge there. Granted, these are ideal scenarios, and in practice, I think these will constitute less than half of my attacks. But, at current numbers, if I can kill most units with 2-4 shots, I think I should prevail, even getting first struck. Of my fleet components above, all of them will take at least 2 shots from them to kill, and raising that number as high as possible while reducing my own is the best way to come out ahead.

Oledavy was pulling his fleet back to his home territory and concentrating it for another big decisive battle. Time was on his side as he would be able to reach Steel tech and upgrade his frigates to battleships far before any of the other players. Woden only had access to his Minas Geraeses because they are a unique unit that unlocks earlier on the civics tree at Nationalism. Oledavy also had the potential to trade cities for time against the combined English/Brazilian fleet, although he could only afford to give away so many before it started to affect his teching rate. Having Defender of the Faith belief for +10 strength while defending cities with Mormonism present looked as though it could be the decisive factor.

By the way, oledavy's entire economy was being run off of trade routes to the former Toronto city state, which oledavy had liberated earlier in the game for this very purpose of running trade routes. TheArchduke had noticed this and had a small detachment of English units attacking the city state, a very smart move on his part. All of the players were still frantically searching for ways to acquire more gold, the only way to afford their bloated military budgets. Everyone was using builders to harvest crab resources for the one-time gold payout in order to fund more unit upgrades. What a huge difference from Single Player games, where the AI's inability to understand the military side of the game results in small armies and far more gold income than players know what to do with.

With his Minas Geraeses in play, Woden began to move forward and looked to take the offensive. Oledavy decided to lay a trap for the Brazilian fleet:

oledavy: Alrighty, time to get in Woden's head. For reference, here's a map of Brazil. For the record, I actually think he's being entirely truthful. His strategy [for Brazil and England to pursue separate objectives] is terrible though. It would be better for him and the Brits to link up and attack me together. A wider front just favors me and my numbers. I think he's also being sincere in his offer to send an invaluable MG to attack Germany. I doubt Archduke will let him do it, it he does, good. It doesn't weaken my position at all to take a turn allocating my forces in such a way to take advantage of his division of forces if he's being truthful. Anyway, so right before the war dec, Woden had 2 frigates and 1 caravel south near Portela, 4 frigates northwest of Grand Rio, and one in Salguerio.

I'm Woden. I'm cocky right now because Dave is on the run. I have the most badass unit in the game right now. I want revenge for him burning my city, I feel the need to attack NOW, and I really want Jerusalem back to salve my pride. It would make a lot of sense for him to want to train up to Line of Battle while he's waiting for Archduke to get in range, maybe find a nice Japanese city to hit repeatedly while he's waiting. So, if I had to guess on the locations of his fleet right now, I'll bet he has his 2 MGs and the caravel around the rice island, and the other four either between Portela and Lisbon, or heading north to protect Salgueiro. The one that started around Salgueiro is irrelevant at the moment. I'm willing to bet that not only does he have a three ship vanguard, but he's going to be feckless in moving it up. And why shouldn't he be? His ships are invincible. Woden is smart though, he'll end turn where there is ocean when he can, just in case. So, you ask, are there ocean tiles in range of Jerusalem?

I've deployed most of my fleet in the area to be able to hit these three tiles next turn. We'll see if he takes the bait. Worst case scenario, I lose a couple ships because I underestimated the distance between my navy and his lead ships. Best case scenario, I get a first strike in and remove a couple MGs from contention right off the bat. We'll see what happens

While oledavy and Woden were cautiously maneuvering their ships, TheArchduke was intensifying his assault on Singaboy's remaining German cities:

Singaboy: Archduke had started to hit my shores with a sub in the west, maybe to vent his anger that he cant accomplish anything in the game. I am not too sure what this should do. Anyway, all of a sudden, he turns up with part of his navy instead of helping out Woden. Woden has so far lost one city and is about to lose another city this turn. His core will suffer badly. Woden's and Archduke's commercial city state, which they sank at least 17 envoys into, has been razed the last round.

So, I guess, instead of fighting oledavy head on, Archduke sidetracks and tried to conquer Germany. Maybe that way, there is more entertainment for me than simply watching oledavy steamroll Woden. Archduke is now sending strong ground forces as well. His first goal is obviously Kiel which is pretty exposed. Woden had lost 4 frigates trying to take the city. Archduke will be more successful, but let him take some flack first. I am able to use the city defense, the frigate inside and a crossbow to sink one frigate. Not too sure, whether the city might fall in between turns. However, a strength 71 city is a different beast from the Kiel he took the first time round.

In the west, he has a submarine pestering my land. Unfortunately, I can only shoot three times at him. Well, at least he has to retreat now I guess. I counter his troops pretty aggressively too. If I just sit back, he will invade, pillage and take my land.

What this meant was that TheArchduke and Woden (who were both not posting in their spoiler threads at this point) were not going to combine their fleets together to attack Japan. Instead, the two of them were fighting their separate wars, with TheArchduke pushing to eliminate Singaboy with additional land units and Woden feeling confident enough to fight oledavy on his own. It was clear that Singaboy wasn't going to be able to hold out too much longer, not with TheArchduke bearing down on him in full. Could Woden pull off an equally devastating strike against oledavy's navy? We were about to find out whether Woden's game-long confidence in his Minas Geraes units was warranted.

Recall that a turn earlier oledavy had puzzled out where he thought Woden was most likely to move his ships and set a trap. As it turned out, oledavy had done a very good job of anticipating his opponent. I'll reproduce his post in full here detailing the Battle of Beija-Flor Bay:

oledavy: When we last left off, Woden was making sounds that he was going to launch an assault from the south separate from Archduke's attack. I laid a trap, and waited to see if he would walk into it. He killed my scout southwest of Jerusalem. Okay, looks like I was right as to his proximity, but he didn't occupy the tiles I thought he might. I guessed he was probably further southwest than I pegged him as being. With this in mind, I decided to move up a Sacrificial Ironclad to find his fleet, maybe I could get a few hits in on his vanguard if it was southwest of the original trap spot.



The southern attack was a feint. I know that MG has two others behind it due to support bonuses, and what's better, a lot of my fleet is in range. I moved forward a little more and...

That's 5 of Woden's 7 MGs right there. (two are in a fleet, a bad move facing me since I have lots of cheap weak ships that a generic MG can generally one shot anyway). I'm guessing the other one from his western and southern fleet contingents is southwest of Charon, maybe with the caravel in tow. The one from Salgueiro is irrelevant at this point. There's no way its close to the battlefield.

I pounced in with everything I had in range.

6 attacks later, 1 MG is sunk and another is damaged. In ocean, it would take me about 5 attacks to kill each one with my weak fleet, but in the shallows, it's taking me about 4. It helps that a lot of my line of Battle Frigates were in the vanguard for extra punch. The critical thing here is that I've pinned him against the coastline. He can at most get 2 ships out, but the fleet is doomed. The only question is whether he stands and fights and kills 3-4 ships, or runs, killing one and leaving the fleet for me to kill. Either way, it's a monumental victory for me already.

* * * * *

He stood and fought. But, critically, he only killed one ironclad (and damaged another). His wounded MG promoted, and the one to the south did not come into the battle zone. He really should have gone all out to escape or gone all out to fight. This just means I survive with more ships now. The limiting factor here is actually the width of the battlefield and the relative low striking power of my ships. Still, with some clever maneuvering, I can get 12 attacks in. Both MGs are sunk, and the fleet is redlined.

He'll probably kill a couple ironclads on his turn, using the city, crossbow, and MG fleet. But I don't care. 3 MGs and 1 MG fleet for 3 ironclads is a trade I never thought I would get in my wildest dreams. Woden's fleet is effectively done, I can now turn everything to face Archduke, go back to raze Lisbon, attack Tijuca, retake Toronto, the possibilities are endless. Fingers crossed, but this was probably the game right here, the last chance they had to stop me.

Woden invited defeat in detail by not combining with Archduke, moved his fleet too close thanks to poor recon, giving up his first strike, and positioned his fleet against the coast where it could be trapped. Just an amazing turn of events, I can't believe he blundered this badly. Now, the only thing standing between me and my win is Archduke's fleet.

Oledavy had pulled off a masterful tactical victory, landing the crucial first strike against Woden's fleet and then pinning it against the southern Brazilian coast. There was no possibility of Woden's ships escaping, not with the Brazilian ships surrounded and trapped by the enormous Japanese fleet. Earlier in the game, we had seen how TheArchduke won a major victory by catching the Japanese fleet with his own first strike, and eliminating much of it before it could be combined with the nearby German ships. Now the situation had been spun on its head, with oledavy landing the initial attack and the English/Brazilian naval forces scattered across the globe. Oledavy had just destroyed an irreplaceable contingent of Woden's navy. As he mentioned, there was nothing to stop him from sailing up and down the Brazilian coast razing cities at will. And Steel tech was less than a dozen turns away, which would allow oledavy to start upgrading his gigantic number of frigates into battleships, with none of the other players anywhere close to the same key shipbuilding tech. As we had seen repeatedly in this game, whoever controlled the seas controlled the world.

This looked like a decisive turning point.